Reflections for Sunday 29th March 2020

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Readings for the day: Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45

Spend some time with both the readings before you read my thoughts…

Our reading from Ezekiel always makes my stomach churn, but probably not for the reason we may be thinking. One of the very first times I read in church when I was in my teens, I read this reading. The only problem was I was not expecting to read this reading. I had prepared to read a piece of Jeremiah at a late Saturday night vigil before the first communion at Easter. The church was in darkness, I had complete faith in the person organising the readings so went to the lectern without my version of the reading. When I got up there – it was not the reading I had prepared but this reading from Ezekiel, and in the King James Version – I can honestly say at the time I had never seen this reading! If I am going to read aloud in church I much prefer to have worked through the reading first for tricky phrases and where to breathe etc… The only thing to do was to take a deep breath and go for it. It wasn’t the best reading I have ever done, but somehow it all flowed and no-one else was any the wiser!

I have wondered after at my reaction to take a deep breath in, when the reading uses breath to indicate how God interacts with us. Ezekiel’s colourful vision, which has some nightmarish qualities, was given to help people in very difficult times. His people were in exile and hope was at a low ebb characterised by the very dry bones in the valley. In the vision, Ezekiel has to speak to the bones twice – first they are brought together to make bodies and then the second time to bring the breath of God that the bodies might live.

God says ‘I will put my spirit in you, and you shall live’. The resonances of better times to come on the horizon are obvious, pointing to a time when the exiled people will again experience restoration to their land and the rebuilding of the temple. And also pointing to the coming of Jesus bringing the breath of the Holy Spirit to all.

I have been finding during this tumultuous week resonances of this exile in our lives today. So much of what we take for granted has been stripped away from us – to living adhering to our Government’s current tag line, “Stay at home – protect the NHS – save lives”. Following the Government’s guidance is what we must as well as what we should do and shows significant love for our neighbours near and far. This also respects the very churchy language of ‘seeking the common good’. For a society used to doing what we want, when we want I think ‘exile’ probably comes close to the challenge.

Having said that as Christians we have hope, through the Holy Spirit’s presence, brought to us through the saving love of Jesus on the cross whether we are in ‘exile’ or not. As we read this on ‘Passion Sunday’, as the Lenten pace hots up Holy week and Easter are approaching rapidly, let’s remember God’s passionate love for us. Love that came down to earth at the first Christmas, love that sent his only son to save us through dying on the cross and rising again.

We see Jesus using God’s love in our gospel story to raise Lazarus. It is a long story and one well worth a concentrated read. What struck me afresh this week was how Jesus was ‘greatly disturbed and deeply moved’. Firstly, on meeting Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus had died and then again, when he came to the tomb. Jesus was as human as we are, and he walks with us through his spirit in our deeply emotional times. I can think of moments, as I suspect we all can, when I have been greatly disturbed and deeply moved by the events of this past few weeks. There is also the prospect of more and more to come. As I was saying last week we need to keep ourselves rooted in the hope Jesus won for us, and pray for the strength Martha showed for the days and weeks ahead.

Jesus said to her – ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die – Do you believe this’

She responded to him ‘Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world’.

So after a deep breath in, inspired by the Holy Spirit – Let our response be ‘Yes Lord – Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.’

Someone wiser than me put it like this “if our adventure in faith has taught us anything, it should be that, having loved us into life to begin with, God in Christ promises us nothing but love to the end – and beyond”.

Closing prayer

Thank you, Lord, for your constant presence.
Thank you for holding us and comforting us.
Thank you for crying with us when we are hurting.
Thank you for weeping with us when we are broken-hearted.
Thank you, Lord, that you never let us down,
that you always give us hope.
God of new life,
we give you thanks and praise today. Amen.

Copyright acknowledgements

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 

Prayer and final quote ©  Roots on the web

The picture is one I took in 1999 north of Auckland in New Zealand at a Christian conference centre.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Reflections for Sunday 29th March 2020

  1. Veronica Cother Bentley

    I am June Cother’s Godchild and niece, for several years I visited June every summer for three to five months. We had not been able to share a lot of time through the years as I went to Australia when I was 19. I did visit the UK a couple of times but disliked the long journey. I then came to America and towards the end of my working life I was able to visit the UK each year. June so wanted me to move to the UK, but financially this was not viable, so I gave her as much time as I could. During the last three visits, I volunteered at the Charity Shop, suggesting I give one or two days a week, following in June’s footsteps of being a volunteer there. I ended up working six days a week and loving every minute with a staff of very friendly ladies. I did take two hours off on Thursday to attend the communion service with June. I have authored a book of June’s life, she was a midwife towards the end of WWII with a bicycle around the streets of London, delivering babies. We used to watch the Tv show, Call the Midwife. June and I shared the same sense of humor, I was her favorite niece for many years. Then June and her friend Angela decided to foster children. They could barely afford their own needs and that of my grandparents who depended on June for financial help. June expected the children to adapt to a Christian way of life, and was very strict. I recall from my childhood when I visited her in London, she seemed so strict. June’s brother my father was a sailor, and lived that life until he retired in America at the age of 75. By then he had enjoyed a life unknown to his English wife, children and family. I was my father’s neighbor for the last seven years of his life. June’s younger brother was killed in WWII and is buried in Cyprus. We did have a chance of visiting his grave, the British Legion was going to make that possible. June wanted me to go alone as by then she did not feel she could go by plane as needed. June and my brother did visit me in America and we had FUN……. for the first time in her life she wore thick trousers at Christmas time when we visited Disney…….. it was so cold that year, and with much laughter June donned the pants supplied, was rugged up warm and we endured the cold so she could meet Mickey Mouse etc. There is much more I could relate about one of your ex parishioners. June had an opinion on all things, not always agreeable, but I accepted “she knew best” or at least I let her think she did. My grandparents are buried at Stoke Trister Church, as is June and her friend Angela. I used to visit my grandparents grave yearly to clean the head stone. Sadly I was unable to attend June’s funeral as I was in hospital at that time after major surgery. I used to tend June’s garden and scatter Hollyhock seeds everywhere and all bloomed giving off such a wonderful show of color. Many of the seeds were a legacy of my Grandfathers love of gardening, also deep purple Iris’ flowers, the bulbs from my Grandparents garden in Templecombe. I have rambled on some, but I wanted you to know one lady who was a church warden at one time, again very vocal at times how things should be. Always ready to help a needy person, she sat in her front room next to the school watching the children going to school. She loved her house, 2 Davis Homes, her neighbor was a great help when June had a need. Beryl Williams was June’s closest friend and the three of us often went out for the day. Beryl was like a sister to June, and I love her dearly. I pray for the church daily, my prayer for the world at this time is My God my strength in ages past. Yes the well known hymn, I believe the words appropriate for all. Sincerely (as known) Bonny Cother.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Feltham Post author

      Dear Bonny
      Thank you so much for this story of June and how your lives intertwine – she sounds like a lovely character. Thank you for your prayers too – I hope you would be happy if I add you to my private prayer concerns. Stay safe in the love of Jesus.
      Rev Alison Way

      Reply

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